Words on a screen. Or in a document. The familiarity of letters and numbers scrawled on lined or plain paper. It’s hard to imagine that they can have any life or personality to them, isn’t it? But I say they do. To me, words are as beautiful and profound as a painting or drawing or a piece of music or dance. Words can build people up or tear them down. They can be used for humour and for absolute sadness. They can be simple or profound, blunt or metaphorical. They’re as pliable as a piece of unformed clay! What does all this have to do with your brand and brand voice? Well, if I can get this one point across from the start, then it becomes a lot easier to persuade you that words can convey your brand voice more easily than you might imagine.
I’ve talked about branding before. That elusive word that denotes much more than just fonts, graphics and colours to represent your business. Branding goes way deeper than that. It’s your values and morals. It’s the way you believe business should be done. It’s how your business AND YOU represent yourself in the world. So it seems obvious to suggest that your words, your language, your tone and message are an extension of your brand.
And yet, many small businesses overlook the power of words when they put their businesses together.
They don’t think about the sorts of things they should be saying on their websites. What sort of words their audience should be reading first when their website loads up. What message should be instantly conveyed in those first few seconds? They don’t think about the value and information they could be sharing and giving out through their blog posts, their newsletters and their downloads. Even everyday correspondence, emails to enquiries and booked clients, have as much importance as any other part of their business.
As someone who loves words, I find this hard to comprehend. But that’s why I’m here folks! I’m on a personal crusade to get you loving words and language so that you can utilise it in your businesses to amazing effect. Are ya with me?
Finding your brand voice
In the first instance, you need to find the voice you want to use to represent your brand. If you’ve got a strong idea of what your brand is about, who it represents, who it’s for, what it does and how it does it, then you’re already off to an incredible start.
But how do you figure out what words you need when you know all that stuff?
The best way I can answer this is to set you a task. Grab yourself a big sheet of paper and a pen. Set aside some undisturbed time. Put the phone on silent, shut off your computer and step back from the outside world. Just for a half hour or so.
Go for the brain dump. Write down all the words you can think of that somehow relate to your business. Words that describe what you do, words to describe your dream clients, words your dream clients FEEL when they work with you. Go for your life. Write anything that comes to mind (you can always get rid of it later!). If you don’t consider yourself much of a wordsmith, write a bunch of words down in the first instance and then get yourself to a thesaurus (book or otherwise, but I am a HUGE fan of thesaurus.com). Throw in each of those words and see what else comes out that grabs you.
As an example, one of my clients loved the word ‘magical’. From that, and with help from the thesaurus, we got: bewitching, eerie, whimsical, enchanted, fascinating, mystical, marvellous, spellbinding, weird and wonderful. Suddenly her language possibilities opened up in front of her and she was able to start seeing how she would talk about her business.
Figuring out your tone
Is your business corporate and formal? Friendly and relaxed? Do you use humour or are you more serious?
It helps to know who your audience is when figuring this out. I know I come back to the idea of the ideal client more times than even I would like to admit and, in actuality, I’m pretty opposed to this idea of a ‘perfect’ client. But having a strong idea of the people you are aiming your business at helps you to figure out what tone you should be speaking to them with.
For example, if your perfect clients are young mums, then you’re going to want to talk in a friendly but matter-of-fact tone. Your audience won’t have much time to dedicate to reading what you have to say. You need to get your message across to them quickly while their baby naps, for instance.
Figuring out your tone helps to decide the level of language you need to utilise. It’ll help you figure out how long or short your sentences are, what kinds of punctuation you might be using and a whole host of other things too.
See for yourself. Pick out one of your favourite websites you like to go on to and read a blog post. Then search for something opposite to all the things you love and go and read a blog post on the first site that comes up. Can you see the differences in tone and how it affects the language of the writing?
A word about terminology
As business owners, we have a terrible habit of getting so wrapped up in our business that we forget to talk like real people any more. I’m as guilty as the next person. While talking about copywriting, I’ll start using jargon that leaves non-copywriting friends looking confused, with a ‘WTF?’ hovering on their lips.
And so it goes with your brand voice. Reel in the complicated jargon and buzzwords that your customers may not understand. Instead, talk to them like human beings. I, for one, always appreciate that level of respect.
To illustrate my point… I once worked with a young paramedic who was far too smart for his own good. He should have been in medical school rather than dealing with our usual clientele who were typically of a much lower education level than he was. I remember spending the entire shift translating for him.
He would say: “You’re hyperthermic, diaphoretic, with inflammation over the right iliac region and complaining of hyperemesis for the last 2 hours? Hmm, probably requiring an appendectomy. Let’s hope you haven’t developed peritonitis, hey!”
I would then say: “What he means is… you’ve got a temperature, you’re sweating and have been vomiting with pain in your lower right side. It *could* be appendicitis so you may need surgery to avoid any further complications. Don’t worry, we’ll get you to the hospital where they can sort you out!”
Bless him, he did not know how to talk to patients whose vocabulary did not extend into the medical field (nor how to reassure them!).
So, mind your language is what I’m saying. If it’s a word you think you’re going to have to explain, then change it for something everyone can understand. It’ll save you time and also stop you from coming across as a bit of an arrogant snob! 😉
The thing I keep banging on about when talking about finding your voice in your writing…
Read what you’ve written out loud. The simple premise being, if it doesn’t sound like something you’d say, then change it to something that does!
I absolutely believe finding and utilising your brand voice in your words and copy is as important as what your logo looks like. So take the time to figure this out and it is going to make writing for your business so much easier going forward!
Still unsure? Why not get in touch and let me know what you need help with?